- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Despite being snubbed by the Congressional Black Caucus, Michael Jackson took a break from his legal troubles in California to confer with several leading black lawmakers yesterday about his upcoming mission to help fight AIDS in Africa.

Flashing a victory sign, Mr. Jackson didn’t answer questions from reporters after meeting with several members of Congress, but released a statement directed at the black lawmakers.

“What I want you to know is that whatever I can do to assist you in your fight, I will do,” Mr. Jackson’s statement said.

Mr. Jackson was charged last year with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child younger than 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to the child. Mr. Jackson has pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Mr. Jackson, in town to accept an award for his work helping fight AIDS overseas, met privately with several black members of Congress in the office of Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat, to talk about his AIDS work.

He is planning a trip to Africa later this year, said Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat.

Mr. Fattah called him “one of the leading celebrities in the world who has actually used his celebrity status to help people.”

Mr. Jackson wanted to speak with the full 38-member Congressional Black Caucus at its meeting today, but leaders turned him down, saying they were too busy dealing with legislative issues affecting black Americans.

But several caucus members, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no upside politically for them to link their name to Mr. Jackson by holding a high-profile meeting with him.

They also noted that the singer has never donated any money to their causes and has never asked to speak to them before now.

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